Chess champ-turned-opposition leader Garry Kasparov tells Eli Lake the upcoming Russian elections will be a “charade” and Obama’s Russia policy is a “disaster.” And he spares no word for George W. Bush or Condi Rice, either.
Many democratic opposition figures in countries sliding toward authoritarianism see Western election monitors as a lifeline, a chance for a fair election that might be fixed if not for the watchful eye of outside observers. That’s not the case for Garry Kasparov, the iconic chess champion who has emerged as a public face of Russian opposition to Vladimir Putin’s grip on power.
“We are asking Americans and Europeans not to send observers,” Kasparov said in an exclusive interview. “You understand Putin will get whatever he wants. What is the point of pretending this is an election? It’s a charade. Don’t interfere with it, just don’t pay respect to the charade.”
Putin, the former Russian president currently serving as prime minister, announced last month that he would be seeking the presidency anew in the Russian elections scheduled for March, putting a damper on President Obama’s Russia policy, known as the reset. After years of George W. Bush embracing Putin directly, under the reset the Obama administration courted current President Dmitry Medvedev in the hopes of bolstering moderate and liberal voices in the Kremlin against Putin and his loyalists.
Kasparov, a former world chess champion, was critical of both presidents and blunt about the reset. “It’s a disaster,” he said. “From day one they bet on Medvedev as a counterweight to Putin. The whole idea of reset was founded on the false assumption Medvedev was an independent politician. He is not.”
Later in the interview, Kasparov acknowledged that his views on Obama’s Russia policy has not won him any friends at the State Department. “They have no interest in hearing my very specific views,” he said. Kasparov spoke Tuesday at the conservative Heritage Foundation for a conference critical of the reset with Russia.